Yesterday, I was engaging in an e-mail exchange with a reader that seems to juxtapose nicely with two recent posts.
We were discussing how so many people determine that for every social problem (as well as to meet the challenges of social change) there must be a government solution. He offered (and I quote with his permission),
Well the problem/mentality looks back to the civil rights movement, where government was really the motor that made things happen. The idea is to take that model and use it for women, the disabled, gays, etc. Our challenge is to say why that’s invalid.
Exactly. In the civil rights era, we needed government intervention because government created the problem (at the outset of the Jim Crow era in the 1890s) by creating (at the state level) and countenancing (at the federal level) laws which defined color as a class and sanctioned discriminatory treatment against blacks while mandating private discrimination.
Over the past quarter-century or so, as people like us have become more open about our sexuality, we’ve seen the private sector react swiftly to accommodate this change (something that Jim Crow laws prevented private organizations from doing in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction). There were no laws requiring that private institutions treat people differently because of their sexual orientation.
At the same time, gay activists (and their allies in politics) have been pushing for legislation which will treat us as a protected class in state and federal law. It’s as if that supposed lack of civil rights about which John Aravosis is so concerned is really an absence of state-sanctioned group “rights”. That needed bureaucratic validation that Alex Knepper so deliciously mocks.